TARPON SPRINGS – The three candidates for the Tarpon Springs City Commission are spending the weeks leading up to the March 11 election introducing themselves to Tarpon residents, including at the final two public forums.
Chris Hrabovsky, Rea Sieber and Joe Muzio are running for Seat 2 vacated by Vice Mayor Susan Slattery after reaching her two-term limit. Current Commissioner Townsend Tarapani is running unopposed for his seat.
Rotary Club forum
The second open forum of the election season was hosted by the Rotary Club of Tarpon Springs at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club on Jan. 30. Each candidate was given five minutes to speak to the group.
Hrabovsky spoke about his eight-year attendance at nearly every City Commission meeting, speaking out to what he views as the important issues and also for citizens he said are too afraid to speak out. He’d been approached for years to run for Commissioner, he said, but finally found the motivation when he insisted that the city of Tarpon Springs create a notification policy to inform residents when an issue involving them is on a commission agenda. And although he said he believes he has made a huge impact in his eight years speaking at meetings, winning the election would increase his capabilities.
“I can help do things more effectively as a commissioner than I have before,” he said.
Muzio, a 27-year resident of Tarpon Springs, said he’s seen the city through good times and bad times, and has plans to increase tourism and income. Muzio advocates continued economic development without compromising the quality of life, focusing on attracting new businesses and working with existing businesses. Selling the nursing home at 501 S. Walton Ave., he said, would fill a need in Tarpon Springs for a mental health facility as well as bring in new jobs and the income generated from the sale. Muzio also plans to work on enhancing tourism and the Greek ethnic background in the city, possibly with a mass transit system.
“We survive on tourism,” he said.
Sieber, owner of three retail shops along the sponge docks, listed her accomplishments as president of the Tarpon Springs Merchants Association, including uniting downtown and sponge dock merchants and drawing in thousands of visitors through local events. Reading from a laundry list of priorities, Sieber presented goals of smart economic growth and development, a reduction of taxes, environmental protection and a more pedestrian-friendly city.
Democrat Club forum
On Feb. 10, the Greater Tarpon Springs Democratic Club hosted the final open forum of the election season at the Tarpon Springs Community Center, led by Moderator Larry Floriani. Each candidate had one minute for an opening statement, one minute to answer each question and one minute for a closing statement.
Sieber began with a statement about her father’s military experience, citing the good work ethic and discipline she learned from him.
Muzio, who has run for the City Commission before, spoke of the changes he’s seen in Tarpon Springs over the years and his devotion to the city that has brought him to again run for Commissioner.
Hrabovsky said that many people should recognize him from City Commission meetings where he has spent eight years standing up for people’s rights.
Floriani, who read from questions entered by the audience before the event, questioned the candidates on their background, work experience and civic activity before asking each candidate what he or she sees as the most important agenda item.
Hrabovsky said his goals are to fight Duke Energy for refunds of taxes for the now-extinct power plant and a plan to turn the 74-acre property currently owned by Walmart into a park, with help from the Trust for Public Land. Hrabovsky said he’s already met with the Friends of the Anclote River and City Manager Mark LeCouris about bringing the Trust for Public Land in to Tarpon Springs for presentations and polling on public interest for turning the property into a park.
“This is doable and this will happen,” he said.
Muzio, rather than talking about his priorities, argued Hrabovsky’s comments, saying that Walmart was not the problem. Instead, he said, the commercial zoning on the property was the issue, and that the city would first have to rezone the land for non-commercial usage if it was able to reacquire the property.
Sieber said there are too many concerns to name just one. As City Commissioner, she wants to limit the tax burden, increase smart economic development and support the arts, as well as work together with everyone in the community.
All three candidates said they would support medical dispensaries in Tarpon Springs if medical marijuana is legalized and agreed on the need for improving city infrastructure such as roads and sewers.
At the time of the forum, Muzio had been endorsed by the Pinellas Realtor Organization, while Sieber had been endorsed by the Tarpon Springs Fire Fighters Association and Tarpon Springs ironworkers. Later in the week, Sieber was also endorsed by the Tarpon Springs Police Department who donated $500 to her campaign. Hrabovsky has been endorsed by former Tarpon Springs Commissioner Jim Kolianos.
In closing statements, Hrabovsky reiterated his experience speaking at City Commission meetings over the last eight years.
“I’ll be the commissioner who can see down the road and tell you what can be done,” he said.
Muzio talked about his plan for the future, as well as his commitment to excellence and “bottom-line mentality” that will help stimulate economic growth if he is elected.
Sieber finished the night talking about her history of setting reasonable goals and going after them. Her diverse background is important, she said, as well as her energy and drive to be a good commissioner.
Voters go to the polls on March 11 to vote for the next City Commissioner.